Your shopping cart is empty.
Log in

The function of prehistory in the organization of F.M. Dostoevsky’s novels

A.B. Krinitsyn
80,00 ₽


Krinitsyn Aleksandr B.,

Candidate of Philological sciences, a Reader in Russian literature of

Department of Russian literature,

Lomonosov Moscow State University



In the preparatory materials to Dostoevsky’s novels we see a large amount of dramatically evolving plots, typical of adventure novels. In the final variant their number is substantially reduced, for most of events turn out to be in the pre-novel past, in characters’ prehistory. Dostoevsky definitely tends to place all real actions of his characters beyond the confines of the novel’s “present”.

Due to the fact that prehistory can be introduced as a story within a story, it draws closer the novel’s action proper, the only difference being in the number of details. As a result, it often becomes impossible to differentiate between 1) prehistory as the beginning of a plot, 2) characteristics of a personage ( in the exposition): a compact prehistory becomes a characterization of a personage, acquiring, in due turn, potential indispensible to plot development.

Dostoevsky thinks over his characters’ biography in minute details, yet, conceals it from his reader. This trick enables him to complicate the perception of his characters, making the reader think of most unexpected clues to it. Prehistory looks discreet and the reader feels that the author is always holding something back.

Dostoevsky applies an interesting psychological device: he constructs a psychological novel on the basis of an unrealized adventure novel. As a result, prehistory contains most important units of the plot, whole novels-in-the-past, belonging to the main characters and leading to the plot proper. This device becomes most conspicuous in “The Demons”, enabling the author to maintain a high degree of tension, characteristic of plots of adventure novels.

Keywords: Dostoevsky’s novels, adventure novel, idea, prehistory, plot.



1.         Dostoevskiy, F.M. Polnoe akademicheskoe sobranie sochineniy v 30-ti tt. Leningrad: Nauka, 1972—1990.

2.         Ginzburg, L.Ya. O literaturnom geroe. Leningrad: Sovetskiy pisatel', 1979, 221 s.

3.         Toporov, V.N. O strukture romana Dostoevskogo v svyazi s arkhaichnymi skhemami mifologicheskogo myshleniya (“Prestuplenie i nakazanie”). V: Mif. Ritual. Simvol. Obraz: Issledovaniya v oblasti mifopoeticheskogo: Izbrannoe. Moskva «Progress» — «Kul'tura», 1995, s. 193–258.

4.         Gershteyn, E.G. Neizdannye zametki A. Akhmatovoy. Voprosy literatury, 1970, no. 1, s. 158–206.

5.         Likhachev, D.S. Vnutrenniy mir khudozhestvennogo proizvedeniya. Voprosy literatury, 1968, no. 8, s. 74–87.

6.         Ivanov, V.I. Dostoevskiy. Tragediya – mif – mistika. V: Lik i lichiny Rossii: Estetika i literaturnaya teoriya. Moskva: Iskusstvo, 1995, s. 351–458.

7.         Davidovich, M.G. Problema zanimatel'nosti v romanakh F.M. Dostoevskogo. V: Tvorcheskiy put' F.M. Dostoevskogo. Leningrad, 1924, s. 104–130.

8.         Istoriya russkogo romana. T. 2. Moskva – Leningrad, 1964, 644 s.

9.         Likhachev, D.S. Predislovnyy rasskaz Dostoevskogo. V: Poetika i stilistika russkoy literatury: pamyati akad. Viktora Vladimirovicha Vinogradova. Leningrad: Nauka, 1971, s. 189–194.